“Coronavirus is not the plague” – Abela says as he urges calm


Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Partit Laburista leader Robert Abela urged everyone to remain calm on Sunday saying that the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, was not the plague and that it will not affect every one. Referring to statistics from other countries, Abela said that they showed that the majority of individuals had recovered without being hospitalised.

Abela’s speech on Sunday was mostly dominated by the coronavirus, mentioning briefly the latest building collapse which claimed the life of 54-year-old Miriam Pace and International Women’s Day.

On Saturday, the Health authorities announced that three individuals had tested positive for coronavirus. The family who had been on a holiday to Italy were in self-quarantine until they developed symptoms associated with coronavirus. The family was then transferred to Mater Dei Hospital and is being kept in isolation. The parents and the child are recovering and in a good health condition.

Prime Minister Abela urged for the public to remain calm and think rationally. He maintained that while he understood that people might be scared, one needs to refer to facts. “This is not a situation for social media,” Abela said.

“The circumstances we’re going through at the moment shows that this is a serious government,” Abela claimed, saying that the “virus found the country prepared”.

He pointed out that the countries’ with the highest recovery rates were ones with a good health care system such as the Maltese.

“I do understand that it is an infectious disease which can spread, but there is also a high rate of recovery,” Abela said.

He urged the public to remain calm and continue with their daily activities but always be on the alert and follow any advice given by the Health authorities. “Stay calm there is no need to panic,” Abela reassured. “No need to go on panic buying sprees. There was food, there is food, there will be food,” Abela said.

No time for knee-jerk reactions

Abela maintained that while the people’s health remains the top most priority for the government, this was not a time to take knee-jerk reactions. Adding that it was not a time to score political goals or have knee-jerk reactions.

“The best political decision would be to isolate the country. To stop all forms of transport to and from the country. We need to take proportionate decisions rather than adopt drastic measures,” Abela said. The government is facing calls for travel bans to and from Northern Italy, with the Medical Association of Malta warning that it would take any measures necessary if the government fails to do so.

Early on Sunday morning the Italian government effectively locked 16 million people under quarantine after the signing of a decree. The lockdown of Northern Italy was a draconian measure in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 after Italy became the hardest hit European country outside of China.

Abela said that whatever decision the government might take it will always be criticised.

“Drastic measures will lead to unnecessary suffering. People will suffer. I don’t want us to go there,” Abela told party supporters.

“We will not play with people’s hand. I give you my word it is in good hands. In the coming weeks, months, you’ll realise that I was right,” he said.

He also urged the various associations from the health and employment sectors to be “fair” when commenting on the situation.

Building collapse: It will not happen again

Abela mentioned that the victim would have turned 55 on Sunday. He said that he was deeply saddened by the incident.

“There will be no similar incidents in the future. Such incidents are unacceptable in our society,” Abela said in reference to the building collapse in Ħamrun.

The Labour leader refrained from delving deeper into the merits of the case saying that he did not want to prejudice the case. He added that in this case the government did not do anything but encourage the institutions to carry out their functions.

“This is not a time to seek but for justice to be served,” he said.

He referred to the technical committee which the government recently appointed to revise the law, saying that it would do so without harming the construction industry. In the meantime, Abela appealed for those involved in the industry to follow the law and regulations and use the correct techniques. “These are simple things which one can do and if observed, they will be of benefit to everyone,” he said.

“As a government we’re committed that such incidents won’t happen again in the future,” Abela stated.